Considering Medical Aid in Dying

Medical Aid in Dying
Wednesday, May 1, 2024
Ten states and the District of Columbia currently have statutes on the books or a court decision that authorizes medical aid in dying (often called MAID) for adults who are terminally ill. Many additional states, including Minnesota, are debating similar legislation. First legalized in 1994 under the Oregon Death with Dignity Act (which went into effect in 1997), these state statutes authorize doctors to prescribe lethal medication that the patient may choose to take. No U.S. state statute authorizes euthanasia. Evolution of state law continues, including reexamination of the state residency requirements.

In 2016, Canada authorized both provision of a lethal prescription and euthanasia. Starting in 2027, Canada plans to enlarge eligibility to patients whose only underlying condition is a mental illness. Canada has faced significant pushback from human rights advocates and disability rights organizations, suggesting the nation’s legal framework lacks the necessary oversight and safeguards to protect vulnerable populations.

Our three panelists are experts on the law, ethics, and clinical realities of medical aid in dying, in both the U.S. and Canada. They bring different perspectives and disciplines to this important debate.

Find resources related to the webinar here.

Moderator and Presenter disclosures.

This Webinar was free and open to the public.

Panelists are:

Thaddeus Mason Pope, JD, PhD

Thaddeus Pope
Director, Health Law Institute
Mitchell Hamline School of Law

Expand all


Thaddeus Mason Pope is an expert on medical law and clinical ethics. He focuses on patient rights and healthcare decision making, especially at the end of life. While Professor Pope serves in a range of consulting capacities, he has been particularly influential through extensive high-impact scholarship. Ranked among the Top 20 most cited health law scholars in the United States and the Top 50 in the world, Pope has more than 300 law, medicine, and bioethics publications. A fellow of The Hastings Center and previously both a Fulbright Canada Research Chair in Health Law, Policy, and Ethics at the University of Ottawa, and a visiting scholar at the Brocher Foundation in Switzerland; Pope is now a Professor at Mitchell Hamline School of Law in Saint Paul, Minnesota. Especially relevant to this webinar, Pope has been a regular consultant to the American Clinicians Academy on Medical Aid in Dying, an advisor to other end-of-life advocacy organizations, a frequent witness testifying in legislative hearings on MAID, and an expert witness in litigation concerning assisted dying.

Nancy Berlinger, PhD, MDiv

Nancy Berlinger, PhD, MDiv
Senior Research Scholar
Director, Visiting Scholar Program, The Hastings Center

Expand all


Nancy Berlinger is a Senior Research Scholar at The Hastings Center, an independent bioethics research institute based in Garrison, NY. Her current research focuses on ethical and societal challenges arising from population aging, with special attention to dementia and to housing equity. She has led expert teams to produce ethical guidance for health care practitioners in end-of-life and pandemic conditions, including communication and deliberation concerning medical aid in dying (MAID) and related issues such as voluntary stopping of eating and drinking (VSED). She has served as an expert consultant to public deliberation concerning MAID in the UK, and on the planning committee for the National Academies’ 2018 workshop on MAID in the US. She serves on the bioethics committee of Montefiore Medical Center, Bronx, NY, and on ethics review committees for unrepresented patients at Montefiore. She founded and directs The Hastings Center’s Sadler Scholars Program for doctoral students from underrepresented minority communities.

K. Sonu Gaind, MD

K. Sonu Gaind
Chief of Psychiatry, Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre
Honorary Member, World Psychiatric Association
Professor & Governor, University of Toronto

Expand all


Dr. Gaind is a Professor, Governor and member of the University Executive at the University of Toronto and Chief of Psychiatry at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre, one of Canada’s top medical academic institutions. His clinical expertise is psycho-oncology. He is an Executive Member and Medical Practice & Tariff Chair of the Ontario Medical Association (OMA) Section on Psychiatry and Chair of the OMA Relativity Advisory Committee, a Past-President of the Canadian Psychiatric Association, the Ontario Psychiatric Association and of PAIRO, and now President of the fledgling Society of Canadian Psychiatry and of the Ontario District Branch of the American Psychiatric Association. He represented Canada internationally as a Board Member of the World Psychiatric Association from 2017 to 2020 (and in the more distant past represented the country on Canada’s two first International Physics Olympiad teams). Dr. Gaind has been actively involved in health policy development and advocacy since residency, and has been recognized with numerous regional, provincial, national and international awards for his teaching, advocacy and impact. He has helped form health policy and engaged medical colleagues and the public to be more aware of and advocate against policies that stigmatize and discriminate against the mentally ill. As Medical Assistance in Dying (MAID) policies have been evolving in Canada, Dr. Gaind has testified before numerous parliamentary and senate committees, chaired his former hospital’s MAID team, chaired the time-limited CPA Task Force on Assisted Dying, was selected to sit on the Council of Canadian Academies Expert Panel on Mental Disorders and Assisted Dying, was retained as an expert by the former Attorney General of Canada in the Quebec Truchon and the BC Lamb cases, and has spoken across the country and internationally on issues relevant to mental health and mental illness that need to be considered in any MAID framework. He believes medical experts have an obligation to help guide health policies with evidence, not just ideology, and to consider the impacts of public policies on the most marginalized to avoid perpetuating policies of privilege.

Moderated by:

Susan M. Wolf, JD

Susan Wolf
Chair, Consortium on Law and Values in Health, Environment & the Life Sciences
Regents Professor
McKnight Presidential Professor of Law, Medicine & Public Policy
Faegre Drinker Professor of Law
Professor of Medicine
University of Minnesota

Expand all


Professor Susan M. Wolf is a Regents Professor; McKnight Presidential Professor of Law, Medicine & Public Policy; Faegre Drinker Professor of Law; and Professor of Medicine at the University of Minnesota. She is Chair of the University’s Consortium on Law and Values in Health, Environment & the Life Sciences. She is an elected member of the National Academy of Medicine (NAM) and a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). 

Francis X. Shen, JD, PhD

Francis Shen
Co-Chair, Consortium on Law on Values in Health, Environment & the Life Sciences
Professor of Law
Solly Robbins Distinguished Research Fellow
University of Minnesota

Expand all


Professor Francis X. Shen, JD, PhD, is an expert at the intersection of law and neuroscience, as well as law and artificial intelligence. He is a Member of the Faculty of the UMN Graduate Program in Neuroscience, and Co-Chair of the UMN Consortium on Law and Values in Health, Environment & the Life Sciences. He directs the Shen Neurolaw Lab, whose motto is: Every story is a brain story. Dr. Shen is building the new field of law and neuroscience, and conducts empirical, legal, and ethical research to examine how insights from neuroscience and artificial intelligence can make the legal system more just and effective. He also explores the ethical, legal, and social implications of advances in neurotechnology.